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About the author: John Michael Boon (1940 - 2014)
Mike Boon loved water in caves. He delighted in discovering a clean-washed stream-way, leading in Mike’s imagination, if not in practice, to The Main Drain or a Master Cave that collected all the subterranean waters and carried them to a clean, clear spring. Mike moved easily and gracefully in cave passage, but to see him excel, he needed water. He would slide like an otter into a pool and with scarcely a ripple glide away into the unknown. His inventiveness and cool determination were obvious from his early explorations in Swildon’s Hole in the Mendip ills of the UK where he became the first cave-diver to remove his air tank completely and push it ahead of himself through tight passage. His powerful swimming was needed in Mexico in the waters of Yochib where he swam through raging flood waters to save his companion and himself. In Canada even glacial melt-water could not cool his determination to explore Raspberry Rising, where he took sections of a may-pole through the sump to climb the water-falls on the far side. Perhaps his strangest exploit was the exploration of Agua Escondida in Guatemala by kayak, taking two days to progress upstream to a camp site, and taking two hours to exit, kayaking downstream by the light of his caving lamp.
Mike Boon was one of the best-known British cavers of modern times. Boon explored caves throughout Europe, North America and Central America, and epitomized the penniless caver traveling the globe in search of unexplored caves. Respected by his peers, and revered by some, his drive and unique personality often made him difficult to work with. Boon first went caving at age 17 in Somerset, southwest England, and soon joined the Shepton Mallet Caving Club. He began caving energetically throughout Britain and, later, further afield. Boon became a bold sump diver, learning his craft in the tight, murky sumps of Mendip caves. He pioneered the change from oxygen re-breathers to compressed air and was one of the first sump-divers to use a hip-mounted “tadpole” tank of 26 cubic ft. capacity, extending its duration by careful control of his breathing. In 1962 the records of the Cave Diving Group show 11 divers active in the UK, and Boon made 18 out of a total of 48 dives, being the only person using compressed air. In 1966 he wrote A Technical Review of Cave Diving On Air. He led or participated in breakthrough dives in Sump VI and Sump VII in Swildon’s Hole, Somerset, Britain.Explorations in Mossdale Caverns, Yorkshire, once considered the most difficult cave in Britain. He surveyed the entrance crawls in Daren Cilau, South Wales. Explored passage on the far side of sumps in Predjama in Slovenia. He participated in an eight-month expedition documenting the river-caves of Jamaica. This period of exploration is covered in his book Down to a Sunless Sea.
In 1963 he participated in a trip to the Gouffre Berger (then the deepest cave in the world) when Ken Pierce dived the final sump. After the Jamaica expedition Boon moved from Britain to Canada and joined Dr. Derek Ford’s Karst Research Group based out of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario where Boon also studied for a degree in English Literature. The KRG summer camps in the Canadian Rockies were the first organized cave explorations there. Significant exploration here included: Survey of the main stream passage in Nakimu Caves, Initial exploration of Castleguard Cave, with Peter Thompson to Thompson’s terror. Boon moved west to Alberta in 1970, joining the Alberta Speleological Society and continuing his participation in western cave explorations. In 1970 Boon undertook a solo exploration in Castleguard Cave past the previously-unclimbed pitch that now bears his name (Boon’s Aven) to discover the Ice Plug under the glacier. Bottoming of the 536m deep Arctomys Cave, for many years the deepest cave north of Mexico. Boon also participated in a British caving expedition to Pierre St. Martin in the Pyrenees.
Living in Canada made inexpensive road trips to caving regions further south feasible for Boon. In addition to trips to the eastern United States, Boon spent much time in Mexico and Guatemala where he undertook his best-known explorations, including:
- Mexico: Rio Iglesia, Sotano de San Agustin, Cueva San Agustin, Agua Carlota, Joya de Salas, Sotano de Tenejapa, Sumidero de Chenalho, Cruz Pilal, Huixtan Resurgence (Mapachero), Sumidero Yochib, Guayateno and other caves in Cuetzalen, Sumidero Chicja, Sumidero de Agueyaco, Sumidero de Tenejapa, Xumula
- Guatemala and Belize: Investigation of the sinks of Chiquibul, El Sumidero (Rio Huista), Sumidero de San Ramon, Agua Escondida, explored in kayaks
In 1980 Boon wrote The Great San Agustin Cave Rescue, by dictating the text over a three day period, so giving a very personal perspective on his participation in the rescue of two seriously-injured Polish cavers.
In 1983, due to illness Boon was forced to abandon the planning of a British-Canadian expedition to Nare, a huge river-cave in New Britain, and spent some time recovering in hospital. Following his retirement from active caving, Boon pursued small-scale political and human-rights causes and spent some years as a one-man, hands-on aid program to the Jacalteco natives of Guatemala and helped some specific families put their children through school. In later years Boon lived quietly, studying Buddhism, on a modest disability pension in Calgary, Alberta. He passed away on December 20, 2014.
For more on Mike Boon, watch the follow video complied his by friend and fellow caver, Sid Perou